Saturday, August 13, 2011

What it's like to have a brain MRI

I had a lumbar spine MRI in May 2009, which I wrote about here.

On Wednesday, I had a brain MRI with contrast to see what's going on with my brain, because of my intermittent numbness.  The two MRIs were a little different.

I still don't know the results.  I still don't know the results of my bloodwork from 2 weeks ago; the doctor's office has not received them.  I left a voicemail with the doctor's assistant on Friday asking about it and asking her to call me back; no response (she told me on Tuesday they still didn't have the results).  I'll try again Monday.

Ok,  so for the brain MRI.  First I checked in and filled out some paperwork in the waiting room.  I saw a nurse that takes some of the same gym classes I take and said hello to her.  I thought it would be great if she was my tech but she wasn't.  But the tech I got was totally nice and friendly and the polar opposite of the tech from the evoked potential tests.  Yeah!    She came right up to me and said my name.  As we walked back I asked her how she knew who I was, and she said when you check in, the clerk puts a description of what you're wearing on the form.  Hrm.

Since this MRI was with contrast, they put in an IV first.  I had to wait awhile for the person ahead of me to finish up his MRI. I don't know what was going on with him, but it sounded like he was having some difficulty, with lots of cheerleading on the part of his tech, and a "what did you react to?  let's get you to a nurse" afterward.

Then it was my turn.  I had to lie down on a table, shimmy up til my shoulders touched this piece of plastic.  The tech put earplugs in my ears and then some padding around that.    She then put a cage/mask type thing over my face.  I wasn't expecting that.  It snaps into place.  I'm not really claustrophobic, but I could see that being a problem if you are.  She asked if I wanted a blanket; I said yes.  The table moved me into the machine.  Unlike my lumbar MRI, I could not see down my body; I could only look up, through the cage and to the top of the MRI machine.    The tech told me how long each scan would last (3 minutes, 2 minutes, this is the longest one at 5 and a half minutes, etc).    Then she took me out of the machine, the other tech injected me with the contrast dye, and I was moved back into the machine for some more scans.

I did my meditation breathing, one that I learned from Whole Living (breathe in and think the word "strong", breathe out and think the word "calm").   A friend of mine asked me to figure out if she should go on a work trip or not; I thought about that.   At one point I felt headachy.   I occasionally moved my feet or hands.  My shoulders were definitely tense.  The MRI machine wasn't as loud as I remember it from 2009, though this was a different facility and a different type of MRI.

Then it was over.  I had asked the tech how long it would take.  I think she said 15 minutes without contrast and 12 minutes with (or was it 20 and 15?)?   But it seemed to be faster than that?  The table moved, the tech took out the IV and put on some gauze and a very funky red bandage, and told me to wait while they printed the films.  I was wearing long pants, socks, shoes, and a short sleeved t-shirt (the same shirt I wore for my lumbar MRI--it's got a squirrel on the front, one of my favorite gym shirts).    I felt really cold and then I started shivering.  I don't remember the last time I shivered, but the tech got me a warm blanket (it really was warm, like it had been in a dryer) and I sat there.  A guy in blue scrubs (radiologist?) showed up with the films and asked if I was ok.  I said, I'm always cold but I'm shivering.  He asked if I wanted to see a nurse.  Nope!  He showed me the way out and I was back in the Princeton warmth.

I then drove over to the Princeton Farmer's Market and told my favorite flower farmer my story (he asked if I had today off since I was, well, wearing a squirrel shirt).  I think he got more than he bargained for as I dumped my medical history on him (back/ab/pelvic kidney/shoulder/numbness).  He is so sweet, he actually gave me green and black eyed susans for free.  How nice was that?  

Princeton Farmer's Market flowers 8/12/11

Then I went back to work where I showed some of my coworkers my brain.

my brain MRI
So the parts that are super white on the top, that's just the halogen lightbulbs from my dining room lamp.  because I don't have, you know, one of those lightboxes to light up the images.  They gave me a file folder with several pages of images.

Here's my pumpkin plant.  It is running out of space and growing up the side of the evergreen.  It has some fungus growing on the older leaves, and is still not producing female flowers (ok, Pam asked how I know if the flowers are male or female; this site explains (warning, it has a talking advertisement)!  Anyway, I had no idea about pumpkins and female flowers, but I'm getting worried that mine won't produce any female flowers...)

pumpkin plant 8/13/11

Then I just thought this was funny.  The other roomba charger is downstairs so one of my Hals is waiting in line!

Both of my Hals, waiting to recharge

knees are great
back pain has been light except for Sunday/Monday
ab pain comes and goes but overall is fine (pelvic ultrasound is on Monday afternoon)
shoulder is getting better, slowly
numbness and lightheadedness is intermittent.  When I do have it, it's not a intense as before.

Sewing:  I will be doing some soon.  I think.  :)

Be well!!!


  1. I hope they figure out whatever it is they are looking for!

    I'm a weirdo, but I LOVE MRI's. I find them to be very relaxing (my mother on the other hand gets claustrophobic watching me having an MRI done!) I had one last year (no contrast, so no injection) and thought it was MUCH quieter than when I used to get them 10 years ago. It was like being stuck inside a dot matrix printer...years ago it was like being stuck inside a coffee can filled with screws being shaken.

    I have always had it for my cervical spine- so when they say "the next one is 1 minute" they also add "don't swallow" because the movement can cause the image to blur I guess. It always cracks me up on the "this one is 5 minutes, don't swallow". After that point- swallowing is an involuntary reflex! I think the idea is just you should swallow as little as possible.

    When they do your brain, do they make you close your eyes so you aren't blinking? The children's hospital I was in for awhile had bunny stickers were you can look (away from the red light you can't look at). I always just keep my eyes closed though.

    BTW- hi! I'm not sure I ever commented before. I like ready about crafts, so I found your blog at some point.

  2. Those look like the non-contrast images, so there are quite a few things that would only show up with contrast, but your brain looks structurally normal from those views. Bet you never expected someone to say that on your blog. I'll have dh peep at them too. His research specialization was in brain MRI. :)

    I can't believe that you have been waiting 2 weeks for blood test results!! Unless they did some very obscure tests, that is pretty ridiculous. More ridiculous is the fact that the staff hasn't called you back. Is there an office manager at the office? If so, I would see if you could talk to him/her and definitely bring it up with your doctor the next time you are in. Often the doctor doesn't have a whole lot of awareness of the way that the office staff responds to people. Your feedback could be really helpful in making the office run more smoothly and improving communication. Good luck!!

  3. Wow...sounds like an interesting experience. Hopefully the doctors and results will pinpoint an answer soon. I think the uncertainty would drive me batty (or battiER, I guess). Well, it's my last weekend off before heading back to school (I'm a teacher). I've done some chores and am heading out to suit myself. Do something fun for yourself!

  4. Well you're brain looks good to me, but, I have no idea what I'm looking at. I remember when I tried to interpret my breast scans, it all looks so weird. I agree with the other commentor - two weeks for bloodwork seems a bit much.

  5. You're going through so much. Surely, there will be an answer to your pain. I'm crossing my fingers that you will be well very soon.

  6. When I get nervous I get cold and start to shiver, so that maybe what you were feeling too.

    I do hope these tests rule out many things! Waiting 2 weeks for blood results is insane! At least you are owed a call. Some doctors now get their results on line from the labs and the staff is not trained to do so (asked me how I know!)

    Be well Kyle!


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